I know I’ve written a lot about our nap transition — ahem, nap dropping — over the past year. It’s been a shock to the system, so to speak. Suddenly, the routine that had been established for the past two-plus years (lunch at 11, nap at noon) was gone. Where does one go from there?
While I now institute an hour of quiet time for the twins starting around noon, it can be anything but. There are days I spend much of that time herding not one but two four-year olds back to their respective quiet time spots.
“Is quiet time done yet?”
“Can I have some paper?”
“I can’t get this sticker off.”
“Is quiet time done now?”
“Do you know where my bunny is?”
“I want you to put a blanket on me.”
“If I have to come up here ONE MORE TIME you guys don’t get to watch any TV this afternoon!”
“Mommy? I pooped!!! I need help!”
(Sigh. It never fails.)
It’s not always so dramatic, of course. And Caden has even gone back to napping 90% of the time. Yet even on the best of days that hour flies by in a blink as I eat my own lunch, clean up from the morning and (maybe) get started on another task. Combined with the fact that Nolan, my only reliable napper, has been incapable of sleeping for more than 60 minutes at a time and has also forgotten how to play with the toys in his bed upon waking up (“Mommy! Mom-mee! Mom-MEE!”). It feels like I’m thrown right back in the thick of it, just when the quiet has begun.
It’s a loss for sure. I’ve been flailing to find a new rhythm. Nap time would typically find me on my laptop, making my weekly meal plan, paying bills, budgeting, doing miscellaneous shopping, researching everything from preschools to dance studios to restaurants for date night. Some tasks simpler than others; all nearly impossible with a curious four-year old hovering on my knees.
“Is that for me?”
“Can we watch Elsa?”
“What are you doing?”
On the best of days I would get more restful self-care-type activities done. Writing, reading, editing photos. Those days seem to be long gone. Where evenings used to be a restful time for me, I’m now often completing those necessary household tasks — the meal planning, scheduling, and shopping — that don’t get done during the day. It seems laughable to think that once upon a time I used naptime to eat lunch, clean up from the morning, tackle cleaning bathrooms or organizing the pantry, and still have time leftover to watch Netflix. It seems as much another life as my pre-kid one.
So my question is, what do you do when you lose your rhythm? The one that keeps you alive and well and whole and you?
The simple answer, the easiest one, is, of course: find a new rhythm.
But what if it’s not that simple? What if the chaos of kids and schedules and diapers and commitments and, oh, I don’t know, life just plain get in the way?
We do find new rhythms, consciously or not. Ours right now involves a bit more screen time. That’s not the answer I want to give, the “acceptable” one, the Instagrammable one, which is maybe why I wrestle over it. I’d love to say my three sit peacefully at the kitchen table upon emerging from their respective quiet time rooms, carefully and quietly constructing the craft I’ve meticulously prepared while eating a snack of almonds and apple slices. Neatly.
Ha. Ha. Ha.
The honest answer is that now, most days, I dump Nolan on the couch after his pathetic attempt at a nap and succumb to his request of, “Watch sumthin” so I can pick up where I left off on the grocery order/email/essay/etc. Brooklyn joins and they sit together in (relative) peace and quiet until Caden creeps down to join, and I sigh and close my laptop because it’s time for me to rejoin the fray and figure out our afternoon.
It took me awhile. I first wrote most of those words above nearly four months ago. But recently, I realized I have added a new rhythm for myself during their daily post-nap screen time: reading.
Since their footsteps or cries of “Mommy!” always happen much sooner than I’d care for, I usually feel robbed of my own daily quiet time. A single hour in the middle of a solid 12-hour parenting shift — often punctuated by requests from the non-sleeper(s) and attempts at other household tasks — doesn’t typically leave me feeling very recharged.
Instead of springing into action the minute I hear footfalls on the steps — quick, they’re up! Do this, this, and this! — I’ve been closing my laptop, grabbing a book, and joining them on the couch. I’ve had years of practice tuning out the outside world in order to get lost in a book. Sometimes it’s my Bible, most days it’s the latest library loan on my e-reader, this week I’ve been familiarizing myself with all things Whole 30 (I know. Pray for me). I get some snuggles and some extra time to rest and relax and clear my head. I like to think they might look back on this time and remember it, remember me, right next to them piled up on the couch with blankets and throw pillows instead of in a room away consumed by my laptop. I feel a bit more free during the naptime hour since I don’t have to cram in lunch and cleaning and grocery shopping and self-care. I may not get to complete all my tasks right when I want to, but at least I have a book and some snuggles to look forward to while they watch another episode or two of whatever the latest TV craze is around here.
And while I really, really miss the luxury of having reliable, consistent two-hour nappers, this might just be the best rhythm of all.